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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

The NIEHS Climate Change and Environmental Exposures Challenge

Develop a tool to identify people and places at risk from climate change-related environmental hazards

Department of Health and Human Services

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $35,000
Type of Challenge: Software and apps
Submission Start: 10/01/2015 12:00 AM ET
Submission End: 02/02/2016 09:00 AM ET


Winners Announced!

Challenge entries focused on creating data visualization tools and maps that connect current science on climate change to the exposure pathways for environmental hazards, in order to help decision makers and communities identify areas and people at greatest risk and help to prioritize protective actions. Tools created included visualizations of such climate and social factors as sea level rise, flooding, high heat, vulnerable communities, and hazardous waste sites, which were overlayed with maps of health outcomes such as mortality, cardiovascular disease, emergency room admissions, and asthma. Winning submissions will be incorporated into the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit and disseminated to communities and decision makers. Additional information and interviews with winners can be found on: The NIEHS E-Factor

1st Place, National Tool category: PIE VIZ: Populations, Infrastructures, and Exposures Visualization Tool Developed by a team at Virginia Tech, Pie VIZ combines datasets on power outages, air pollution levels, and extreme heat across the contiguous United States and includes tool incorporates social isolation metrics to allow a to visualize county-level extreme heat and dangerous air pollution days and can select a county to view attributes including numbers of isolated persons.

1st Place, Local Tool category: Effects of Climate Change on the Future of Local Communities in Indianapolis: A prototype Created by a team at IUPUI, this tool leverages climate and health data in an interactive web portal that displays and communicates potential health and environmental effects of climate change including flooding, extreme heat, and air pollution, on a low income, disadvantaged Indianapolis neighborhood: the Near West Neighborhood.

2nd Place, Local Tool category (tie): The San Francisco Climate and Health Profile Developed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the San Francisco Climate and Health Profile is an innovative web-based tool that links climate change projections with their associated health outcomes and identifies populations and locations most vulnerable to these health outcomes. By centralizing and formalizing the collection of neighborhood-level data, the Climate and Health Profile provides neighborhood organizations, city departments, and direct service providers a simple, streamlined way to access information on climate and health.

2nd Place, Local Tool category (tie): Up with the Waters: Climate change, flooding and contamination in the River City Developed by a team based at Washington University in St. Louis, Up With the Waters Up With the Waters is a series of maps that help residents identify areas of greatest potential risks of exposure in future flooding events. The tool includes a various maps highlighting the number of St. Louisans that live and work near contamination sites within the floodplain. Visualizations also identify public parks that have high likelihood of becoming contaminated. This tool is intended to help government and land managers prioritize clean-up of the most heavily contaminated and populated areas within the flood plain in order to minimize exposure risks to the people of St. Louis.

See also the NIEHS Announcement of the winners      

Submissions for this challenge will close at 9AM EST, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Climate change is likely to alter the risks posed by environmental exposures in ways that are just beginning to be explored. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences invites you to help decision makers around the country understand and address climate change's effects on environmental health risks by joining the Climate Change and Environmental Exposures Challenge (#climatechallengeNIEHS).  By creating data visualization tools and maps that connect current science on climate change to the exposure pathways for environmental hazards, innovators can help identify areas and people at greatest risk and help to prioritize protective actions. You can visit the NIEHS webpage for this challenge for additional information about the challenge and examples of data sets.


Communities can face health risks from a variety of environmental exposures, including hazardous wastes and deposits of industrial chemicals, air pollution, harmful algal blooms, toxic contaminants in food, and exposures to pesticides. The effects of climate change may exacerbate these health risks. Fortunately, newly released data and tools, in combination with other publicly available datasets, allow for innovative approaches to demonstrating and assessing such risks.

Better information about climate change’s potential impacts on environmental exposures would improve a wide range of important protective decisions. At the local level, such decisions might include where to build day care centers or new housing. This information could also assist local decision makers on critical infrastructure questions, such as where to place new water intakes for drinking water systems, design or siting of urban waste water drainage or green infrastructure, or placement of monitoring equipment or other sensors.

At the national level, greater understanding of climate change’s influence on the magnitude and spatial distribution of environmental exposures would inform decisions about prioritizing efforts to remove pollution and contaminants. This information would also be useful in setting national standards or policies. Examples of environmental exposures: 1) Toxic chemicals released from hazardous waste, mining or other industrial sites. Several of the effects of climate change may exacerbate these exposures (for example, rising sea level, increased temperatures and permafrost melting, changes in wind patterns, or other climate-related ecological processes). 2) Air pollutants. These can include ozone and particulate matter—as climate change causes temperatures to increase or weather patterns to change, certain regions may see an increase or decrease in these pollutants.   3) Toxins created by molds or waterborne bacteria or algae. Climate change will increase the frequency of extreme rainfall in certain areas, which, in combination with rising temperatures, can foster the growth of indoor fungi and molds. Similarly, elevated waterborne disease outbreaks have been reported in weeks following heavy rainfall.   4) Pesticides. As the climate changes, farmers are expected to need to use more herbicides and pesticides because of increased growth of pests and weeds.   5) Other exposures. You may want to propose environmental exposures other than the ones listed above.  If you do want to explore a different environmental exposure, your submission should include a statement explaining the importance of the exposure to human health and the relationship between climate change and changes in that exposure in the future.  

Judging Criteria

Scientific validity (34%)
Percentage: 34%
Associations between exposures and climate change phenomena must be scientifically credible

Innovative use of data and visualization tools or applications (33%)
Percentage: 33%
creative selection of datasets and ways to display data overlays; inclusion of new ideas and types of data

Clarity (33%)
Percentage: 33%
Depiction of vulnerability and risk easily understood to a general public audience

How To Enter

Entries should be submitted via the Challenge’s homepage on You can use existing tools or platforms or create your own application to produce these visualizations. The geographic scale of the visualization can be as small as the neighborhood or community level or as large as the regional or national level. Submissions should help identify potential areas or zones of increased exposure and/or the degree of changes in exposure or health risk resulting from climate change.  You may consider a short-term time scale (e.g., 0 to 20 years) for impacts associated with extreme events, or a longer time scale (e.g., 2050 or beyond) for impacts associated with sea level rise or other phenomena whose greatest impact will clearly be decades from now. The challenge will award prizes for visualizations, tools, or applications for decision making in two categories: Category 1 for use at the local or municipal level and Category 2 for use at a regional (multistate) or national level. In each category, up to three prizes and $17,500 will be awarded, for a total of $35,000 in prize money. A complete submission should contain the following items and nothing more:
  1. A brief (less than 250 words) description of the visualization and its potential value in improving our understanding of the relationship between environmental exposures and climate change.
  2. A detailed description (limited to 1000 words, not including figures or references) of the visualization, tool, or application, including the technical basis for combining data layers and references to the scientific literature supporting the relationships between climate change, altered exposures, and human health outcomes, where relevant.
  3. The visualization tool and any application or code needed to run the tool. Alternatively, instead of providing the tool or application itself, you may provide either a link to a visualization generated by the tool or application; a video demonstrating the tool or application; or one or more pdfs of example visualizations.
  4. Instructions on how to install and operate any application behind a visualization tool.
  5. System requirements required to run the application.
  6. A description of, rationale for selecting, and complete copy of the data set. For data sets contained within or otherwise easily obtainable from Federal sources, the URLs for the datasets are sufficient.
To be eligible to win this Challenge, submissions must also meet the following requirements: 1) Participants must provide continuous access to any submissions that include web postings through the Challenge period until January 12, 2016. 2) Submissions must be in English. 3) The data visualization tool or application must not use HHS or NIH logos or official seals in the submission, and must not claim or imply endorsement by the Federal government. 4) The data visualization tool or application must be designed for use with existing web, mobile, voice, or other platform for supporting interactions of the content provided with other capabilities. 5) A submission may be disqualified if the visualization tool or application fails to function as expressed in the description provided by the participant, or if the tool or application provides inaccurate or incomplete information. 6) Submissions must be free of malware. Participant agrees that NIH may conduct testing on the data visualization tool or application to determine whether malware or other security threats may be present. NIEHS may disqualify the submission if, in NIEHS’ judgment, the data visualization tool or application or any other part of the submission may damage government or others’ equipment or operating environment. In order for submissions to be evaluated, they must include clear, detailed processes on how they were produced, including any code if applicable. The processes can be submitted in a text document. This Challenge is most interested in submissions that show the interaction between these three data layers: 1. locations and concentrations of harmful agents (i.e., exposures); 2. locations of potentially exposed populations; and 3. geographic and climatologic parameters conveying changing risks of exposure. At a minimum, all submissions should include a data layer related to location of potential harmful agents and a data layer related to changes in levels of exposure to those potential agents cause by factors related to climate change.